Makoura College students helping those in need in Samoa

By Tema Hemi

Twenty two students and staff of Makoura College in Masterton are in Samoa helping provide support for those suffering from the measles outbreak. Initially there to help with renovations of the House of Hope, a special home for children orphaned because of family circumstances. 

These students are appreciative of the life back home in New Zealand.

Student Shai Efaraimo says, "I think everyone needs to learn that what they have, to be grateful for it. Even if it’s a little because there's people out there that don't even have what we have.” 

Fellow student Charles Fisaga Mataitai says, "We just feel sorry for the people of our country. Lucky none of my family suffer from it." 

The reason for their trip was to volunteer in renovating the 'House of Hope'. Deputy Prinicipal Kellas Bennett says despite concerns they carried on with their journey.   

Bennett says, "But unfortunately with the measles epidemic everything's been shut down so we've had to look at the quarantine issues and see where we could pitch in and help, and do what we can."

Lena Chang or 'Mama Lena' manages the House of Hope and takes in children who have suffered from physical, mental and sexual abuse. She also offers counselling to those families who have lost loved ones to the measles epidemic. 

Mama Lena says, "We look into the wellbeing of the family. We offer moral support we don't have any funding or anything to keep but we offer our hearts and ourselves. We believe that if they know that they family around them then it might ease of the pain.”

The students were inspired by Mama Lena. Co-worker and volunteer Anabel Ariki comes from Christchurch and like these youth was drawn to Mama Lena and her work with Samoa's forgotten children. 

Ariki says, "She's amazing! The way she works and just her strength like her ability to stand her ground." 

"I was thinking about the children when she was talking about the kids in the camp. I really wanted to see them but sad because of the measles,” Mataitai says.

Efaraimo concludes, "It’s really heart wrenching aye? It’s sad especially that this is my home country. I don’t even know if some of victims that have passed are my family or not."

These students will return to New Zealand on Sunday. Some have expressed interest to return and do volunteer work at the House of Hope.